A Gentleman: Delivers both kicks and laughs
In a year full of Bollywood duds, Raj & DK deliver a passable action-comedy
Do we make action comedies anymore? Did we ever? Dishoom does not count. Commando 2 is probably this year's unintentional action comedy. The last memorable action film was Akshay Kumar's Baby. When we must think so hard to remember a well-made action or a comedy film, the amalgam is most likely out of reach. These are films that work in intangible ways. The plots in these films are, at most, perfunctory. We need to buy into the illogical and inconsistent world of these films to unmask the rewards they have to offer. They maximise their actors' limited abilities and that's a unique joy of its own. Whether these films are serious art is inversely proportional to how seriously they take themselves. Think Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan. Think Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. I am not saying Sidharth Malhotra is Jackie Chan, but he has found himself in a film that wouldn't be out of place in the action comedy king's filmography. Not necessarily a memorable one but something you wouldn't skip if you landed on it while channel surfing.
In Raj & DK's A Gentleman, Hussain Dalal as Dikshit (with an American pronunciation joke that could have been avoided) fills the shoes of a Sammo Hung. He delivers, but is also terribly underused. Take the scene where he is stunned by a double surprise. For the first time in his uneventful life, he has to deal with murder, and also, a friend who is behaving in ways he has never done before. When the friend says there is more to his story, Dalal gives a deadpan response - 'Clearly'. It sounds like nothing but the moment packs in the laughs. He drags the dead body around a spacious house from the kitchen to the bedroom to the bathroom while Gaurav (Sidharth Malhotra) entertains the invited but now unwelcome guests - his friend Kavya's (Jacqueline Fernandez) parents. Now one would think murder by gunshot - with Dikshit's shirt red with blood - would leave blood stains everywhere as he drags the body. But they don't. If you get past this, it makes for a genuinely funny sequence. These films need that level of investment into their machinations. Either they work for you or they don't.
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez, Hussain Dalal, Suniel Shetty
Director: Raj & DK
Raj & DK make the first half into an elaborate set up. While it feels like they gave up on their conceit too soon, it also feels like that was never the point. It's just a pivot to go from one set piece to another. Think Mission Impossible without the sophistication, which is far better than stuffing the film with senseless information, plot details and snazzy gadgets or 90s screen savers as software. Raj & DK stage interesting action sequences and hand to hand combats. A sequence that moves from a parking lot to the alleys of an apartment complex is particularly fun. Not every comedic attempt works. A scene involving a gay defence secretary comes off as poor taste. It's high time we gave up on normalising gags like these. Apart from few stereotypes - African-American to Gujarati - A Gentleman is mostly inoffensive.
That is if you don't count Jacqueline Fernandez's Hindi speaking abilities. But A Gentleman is the kind of film that sidesteps its actors' lack of acting chops. Consider Suniel Shetty. More than two decades in the industry and if he was anymore stiff, he could be in Madame Tussauds. Malhotra's face is still fit only for poker but he can make a career out of punching and kicking goons. A Gentleman is far from Raj & DK's best. It's not screwball enough to be 99. It lacks Shor and the City's economy. It's not as outrageously funny as Go Goa Gone. But it delivers what it promises. In a Bollywood year full of duds, that is a lot.